When I dye strips of cotton there are of course loose and tangled threads involved. I pull/tidy them and keep them as tiny samples of the dye results. So here's a recent selection of colours, from left to right: alkanet, turmeric, weld, weld dipped in logwood to make a grey-green, madder, onion skins and feverfew.
Yesterday Eva asked if my alkanet dye results had a hint of purple.... well no, although I think you can obtain lavender type tones on wool and silk and with various modifers.... I have recently dyed two different kinds of white cotton fabric. One is a lovely medium weight bleached cotton, the other is a finer lawn cotton. They are both white to begin with, both prepared the same way, but here are the results from the same dye bath.
Both lovely stone or dove grey. I've dyed with alkanet now and then in the past and always get slightly different results. I tried alkanet on wool a few years ago and really did not achieve much of a colour/result. This may very well have been due to the quality of the dried dye stuff I was using. (Always something to consider is if you have what it says it is.) I think it is possible to get some lovely tones on wool.
You may read that alkanet is used to obtain red shades and is traditionally used in cosmetics. This is true, but the red is obtained by using alcohol and extracting the colour. I have read of dyers soaking dried roots in methylated spirits for several weeks and then experimenting, but this is not something that appeals to me.
Alkanet is a bright blue flowering plant that grows wild and has naturalised in parts of the UK. When I first attempted to use it I was telling a friend about this blue flower with magical roots and how it is used in dye to obtain grey shades.... and then she told me she had just been to visit a relative who lived in a rural cottage with alkanet in huge swathes all around. It was a wild weed, she said. I could imagine this bright blue fairytale scene - oh if only I had talked to her before her trip, perhaps she might have collected a few roots or seeds:) Having said that, there is, just to confuse you, more than one plant known as alkanet growing in the UK. There's dyer's alkanet Alkanna tinctoria and then there is green alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens. I think I am right in saying they can both be used for dye. But I have only used the dyers alkanet and from a dye supplier. I get all my dried dyes from the same supplier who I know sells the best quality they can get. Although I do like to use my own plants and wild gatherings, there are times when dried dye stuff is what is needed.
I don't grow alkanet myself right now, but will try it, as it really is a pretty plant with historical roots, of course.
I have a long seed shopping list that needs to be whittled down a little, as I really don't have enough space for everything! I have use of a very small garden (as a tenant I can't do too much to it), and I grow mostly in large containers. A mix of pots, old crates and my favourite: wicker baskets. I know this year I want to grow woad and many more black violas. The black violas last Summer gave such a lovely blue colour that has a good lightfastness from looking at things I've had out on display etc... It's a bonus they also happen to be one of my favourite flowers.
I now have surprise sample packets of natural dyed cotton fabrics in my shop. I'll be dyeing a wide variety of plant/colour over the coming months, so there will always be something different and each selection will be different.